KNOXVILLE — New Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley doesn’t like moving players to different positions.
But he really likes winning, and Tuesday he announced several swaps with that in mind.
Young wide receivers Marsalis Teague and Ted Meline will start preseason camp today at defensive back in response to the Volunteers’ thin depth in the secondary.
They lost likely starting safety Darren Myles after he was arrested twice in the offseason, and Dooley confirmed Tuesday that junior college signee Dave Clark didn’t qualify academically. The coach also noted that two of the team’s four signees still in academic limbo were defensive backs Eddrick Loften and Marcques Dixon.
Defensive end Martaze Jackson and junior college defensive tackle John Brown also are awaiting eligibility confirmation.
The 5-foot-10 Teague, a West Tennessee native, caught 13 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns last season as a true freshman, but he played sparingly after an 84-yard, two-touchdown performance in the season-opening blowout of Western Kentucky.
Meline arrived in January as a 6-2 freshman from Miami and also played receiver in spring practice.
Dooley and his staff decided to move the duo over the weekend and told them Monday.
“We obviously have some depth issues in the secondary,” Dooley said Tuesday. “I don’t ever believe in making players move positions, but I had good talks with both Ted and Marsalis. They want to give it a shot, and we’ll get them over there and evaluate them and see where we are after a certain period of time.
“I do think that they both have the physical skills to get over there and help some.”
Dooley said the moves could stick if the players perform well in preseason camp. He particularly liked Teague’s chances.
“We’re a little bit deeper at wideout than we are at DB,” the coach said. “Nowadays, you’re in nickel over half the time, so I view five as starting in the secondary. Two and three is kind of starting on offense, so you just do the math. When you’re thin somewhere, you go, ‘Who else has the physical skills?’
“Marsalis played quarterback in high school, and (sometimes) those are the perfect defensive backs. Most guys play quarterback in high school because they’re the best athlete on the team, and they have the physical skills to go over there on defense.”
The Vols still enter camp with plenty of depth at receiver. Seniors Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore are proven commodities in the Southeastern Conference, sophomore Zach Rogers has shown moments in practice and freshmen Da’Rick Rogers, Justin Hunter and Matt Milton arrived with considerable hype.
“We are very talented at wide receiver,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of young guys with a lot of talent and a lot of speed. We’ve just got to work on the knowledge of the game. They’re young, they’re from high school, and they’ve got a lot to learn, but that’s me and Denarius Moore’s job to teach them.
“Da’Rick Rogers is just a natural athlete, kind of like Janzen (Jackson) and Eric (Berry). Matt and J. Hunter have great speed and great hands, too. They’ve got the physical ability. Now let’s work on the mental part.”
As expected, the Vols received better news regarding sophomore defensive tackle Marlon Walls and sophomore linebacker Greg King. They were suspended for their roles in a July bar fight but reinstated Tuesday by Dooley.
Dooley said he didn’t expect any players to miss a game in connection with the incident — with the obvious exception being Myles, who was dismissed from the program.
“I’m comfortable that it’s closed internally,” Dooley said. “If not, it’s only from information that’s new and information I didn’t know about. Everything from the incident until now has been 100 percent consistent. I’m talking about from all parties involved, and not just our players.
“But until that’s closed, there’s always that (chance) something appears, and you’ll say, ‘Well, you said it was over.’ It’s never over until it’s over.”
Local police have completed their investigation, but the situation won’t be “closed” until the district attorney’s office closes it.
“I can’t talk much on it, but I can tell you this: I’m extremely comfortable with what the facts are with what happened, and their role in it,” Dooley said. “It’s been consistent since day one, and there’s been no new information that would lead you to believe otherwise. I’m very comfortable with the discipline that we have put on them, and I’m comfortable with their attitude and their remorse that they feel like they’d have. And I’m confident that they’re going to be two great ambassadors for our program.
“I have no qualms whatsoever in bringing them back now.”
Jones said “everybody on the team” is ready to move on from the incident.
“We made some mistakes that night, but we’re trying to put that behind us and focus on now,” said Jones, who wasn’t one of the 17 Vols reportedly on scene at the fight. “We’ve been doing good all summer. We had one minor setback, but we’re not going to let it hamper us too much. Everybody is just staying positive and focusing on camp.”
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